SAO PAULO – Brazil said its final farewell on Tuesday to journalist and television news anchor Ricardo Boechat, who died in a helicopter accident in Sao Paulo. He was 66.
Known for his direct style and critical and ironic comments, the columnist and radio and television anchor with the Bandeirantes group died Monday when he was returning to this metropolis after addressing pharmaceutical executives in Campinas, a city of roughly 1 million people in Sao Paulo state.
Hundreds of people including relatives, friends, colleagues and followers gathered at Sao Paulo’s Museum of Image and Sound to pay their respects.
Boechat, the son of a Brazilian diplomat, leaves behind a wife and six children.
President Jair Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, Gen. Augusto Heleno Ribeiro, conveyed the condolences of the country’s leader, who is in a hospital recovering from surgery after an assassination attempt last September.
“He is a model for Brazilian journalism. He was a man with courage, independent, very intelligent, very articulate, (the loss of) his voice is going to leave a huge gap. The president felt very sad, sent his message and asked me to represent him to deliver the government’s message,” Ribeiro told reporters.
On the day of Boechat’s death, Bolsonaro expressed his deep regrets on social media and published an official statement.
“We will miss his outstanding work of informing the public after the more than four decades he exercised his profession with dedication and zeal,” the president’s office said in the statement.
Boechat’s death once again shocked a country that has experienced several tragedies in the opening weeks of 2019, including the deaths of at least 165 people in a mine tailings dam collapse in the southeastern town of Brumadinho and the loss of 10 members of the Flamengo youth soccer team who died in a fire at one of the venues of Brazil’s richest club.
In his last radio broadcast on Monday, hours before his death, Boechat criticized the impunity enjoyed by “the orchestrators of national tragedies” in Brazil.
The helicopter carrying Boechat plunged from the sky and hit a truck on a busy Sao Paulo highway.
The pilot and Boechat, sitting in the copilot’s seat, were burned to death in the ensuing fire, while the driver of the truck was injured.
“It’s a very big loss and, on the other hand, it’s a privilege to have lived with him for so many years. He influenced and changed many lives and many careers, with the patience to listen to a small child and patience to listen to a helpless old man, he gave his opinion with sincerity,” the president of the Bandeirantes group, Joao Carlos Saad, told EFE.